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5 Findings From the State of Retirement in the U.S. 2016

The 26th wave of the Retirement Confidence Survey (RCS), the longest-running survey of its kind in the nation, finds that American workers’ confidence in their ability to afford a comfortable retirement has maintained its increase after the record lows experienced between 2009 and 2013. However, retiree confidence in their ability to afford a comfortable retirement continued to increase in 2016.
Workers and/or their partners who have a retirement plan in place have larger savings and are more likely to have taken steps to prepare for retirement, while in the aggregate, only a minority of all workers are taking basic steps required to prepare. Here are five findings from the 2016 Retirement Confidence Survey.


Retirees are more likely than workers to describe their level of debt as not a problem. Sixty-seven percent of retirees and 44 percent of workers indicate they do not have a problem with their level of debt.


The percentage of workers very confident about having enough money for a comfortable retirement, at record lows between 2009 and 2013, increased from 13 percent in 2013 to 22 percent in 2015 and has leveled off at 21 percent in 2016. The percentage of workers somewhat confidence increased from 36 percent in 2015 to 42 percent in 2016, while the percentage not at all confident decreased from 24 percent in 2015 to 19 percent in 2016.


Worker confidence in the affordability of various aspects of retirement continued its increase in 2016. In particular, the percentage of workers who are very confident in their ability to pay for basic expenses increased (43 percent in 2016, up from 25 percent in 2013 and 37 percent in 2015). The percentages of workers who are very confident in their ability to pay for medical expenses (22 percent, up from 14 percent in 2013) and long-term care expenses (16 percent, up from 11 percent in 2013) are slowly inching upward.


Sixty-nine percent of workers report they or their spouses have saved for retirement (statistically equivalent to 67 per-cent in 2015). Still, a sizable percentage of workers report they have virtually no savings and investments. Among RCS workers providing this type of information, 26 percent say they have less than $1,000, though those who indicate they and their spouse do not have a retirement plan—a defined benefit (DB), defined contribution (DC), or individual retirement account (IRA)—are far more likely than those who have a plan to report this low level of savings (67 percent vs. 9 percent) and far less likely to report having saved at least $100,000 (5 percent vs. 34 percent).


Retiree confidence in having enough money for a comfortable retirement, which historically tends to exceed worker confidence levels, continued to increase in 2016 reaching 39 percent who are very confident (up from 18 percent in 2013). The percentage not at all confident was 12 percent (statistically unchanged from 14 percent in 2013).
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Ruth Helman, Craig Copeland, and Jack VanDerhei, “The 2016 Retirement Confidence Survey—Worker Confidence Stable, Retiree Confidence Continue to Increase,” EBRI Issue Brief, no. 422 (Employee Benefit Research Institute, March 2016).
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